The Best Physical Therapist Assistant Programs in the U.S.
Physical therapist assistants, or PTAs, are healthcare professionals who work alongside and under the supervision of physical therapists. They work with patients to guide them through the treatment plans developed by their therapists. Because of the important hands-on work that PTAs do, all states require they be licensed.
If you’re interested in becoming a PTA, the first thing you will need to do to get licensed in any state is enroll in an approved post-secondary program. These programs are accredited and confer associate’s degrees. They are generally selective in admitting students and usually take two years to complete. Any accredited program can be your first step in getting licensed in any state, but there are some programs that rise above the rest.
- Baker College, Michigan. Baker College has several campuses in Michigan, so that students interested in becoming PTAs have options. Campuses with PTA programs are located in Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Flint and Muskegon. All of the programs have very high passing rates for the national exam required for licensing. In 2016, every single student at each campus passed the exam. Students complete 50 credit hours of physical therapy coursework, which includes 14 credits of hands-on, clinical practice.
- Louisiana College, Pineville, LA. This small-town campus offers students a selective program for learning to be a PTA. Class sizes are very small, and students have the chance to work closely with instructors. The rate of students passing the national exam has been 100 percent for several years. The program includes 30 hours of general education and 45 hours of physical therapy curriculum, including at least three semesters spent working in a clinical setting. Ninety percent of students attending Louisiana College receive some degree of financial aid, so this can be an affordable education as well.
- Austin Community College, Austin, TX. Austin’s PTA program statistics demonstrate the high level of education students receive here. In 2017, 96 percent of students enrolled in the program graduated, and 100 percent passed the national exam. More than 90 percent were employed within a year of becoming licensed in the state. Students at Austin are required to take a four-hour course before applying to the PTA program. The course goes over the requirements and expectations for the program and necessary skills. It is a great way for students to determine if they really have what it takes to become a PTA before committing to the program.
- Cerritos College, Norwalk, CA. Cerritos is another program with high success rates for its graduates. In 2016, 100 percent of students passed the national exam, while the next year 98 percent passed. According to surveys of graduates, 100 percent of those who became licensed were employed as PTAs within six months. This is also an affordable program with all costs totaling about $3,000. Admission requirements are steep and selective.
- St. Petersburg College, St. Petersburg, FL. The St. Petersburg PTA program is a two-year associate’s degree program with 74 total credit hours of general education and physical therapy courses. Coursework includes classroom learning as well as laboratory settings for orthopedic disabilities, physical therapy practice and therapeutic exercise. Students also complete three clinical experiences. In 2018, 87 percent of the students enrolled graduated, 100 percent passed the national exam, and 100 percent of those who became licensed in Florida were employed after graduation.
Any accredited program for PTAs should provide you with the education and training you need to become a licensed professional. While there are many good schools, what makes the best program for you is one that meets your needs. Consider location, admission requirements and tuition and other costs to determine the school and program that is your best option.